Yield
Serves 4
Time
5 minutes prep, 1 hour cooking, 1 hour 5 minutes total
(Potage Aux Féves Fraîche)

When Fernand Point died in 1955, the noted food writer Joseph Wechsberg wrote that Point was widely "recognized as the master cuisinier of the twentieth century. No one challenged his supremacy." He characterized Point's style as "refined simplicity," describing an intense focus on presenting foods at the peak of their flavors. Point's recipe for fresh fava bean soup is my favorite example of his "refined simplicity," and this is the recipe in its entirety.

I have tried this recipe over and over, using fava beans, peas, lima beans, and edamame beans. Every time it produces an essence of the pea or bean itself, made silky by the butter. After a while I figured out that "some butter" meant less butter was better than more butter, and that sweet (or unsalted) butter gave a silkier result than salted butter. It's a nice presentation to float a pat of butter about half an inch thick on the soup at serving, but it's even better to make butterballs with small wooden paddles and float them in the soup.

Hulling fresh fava beans is not easy, but the result is worth it. An alternative to hulling is to press the cooked, hull-on beans in the sieve, but some of the bean flesh will get stuck in the hulls, so the yield is lower. I have tried using a blender to whiz hulls and flesh together, but the soup is never as silky. Frozen hulled fava beans are available in specialty stores, and they work just fine.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fava beans or broad beans, freshly hulled
  • 4 ounces lean bacon, chopped
  • 1 sprig savory
  • 8 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Instructions

1. Place the fava beans, bacon, savory, and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat to low, and cook for about 1 hour, or until the beans are al dente. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve.

2. Divide the soup between 4 soup bowls and garnish each with 1 tablespoon butter and 1/4 cup croutons. Serve immediately.

Excerpted from The Oldways Table by K. Dun Gifford and Sara Baer-Sinnott. Copyright 2007 by K. Dun Gifford and Sara Baer-Sinnott. Reprinted by permission from Ten Speed Press.